by Jane Ballback
I always knew that Holt International, the wonderful agency that brought us our children, offered “Homeland Tours”. When your adopted child turns 18 they are invited to join other adoptees and return to the country and the orphanage where they were relinquished. It’s a chance to meet and interact with other adoptees, visit their country of origin, and even find out if the agency has other information about how, when, and why the child was relinquished. Tour participants also experience Korea together as they visit national and historic sites and learn about Korea’s rich cultural heritage.
I have always had an intense curiosity about all three of my children’s relinquishment history. At the point of adoption, we were provided with some information about that, but because it was a “closed” adoption, the information was scarce. I knew that our boys had two living parents and older brothers. And I knew that our daughter’s birth mother was young, single, and worked in a factory. That is all we were told and I was looking forward to hearing more of their story, and perhaps even finding my children’s birth parents. Holt even provides adoptees with help finding birth parents, if this is what they wish to do.
Our entire extended family talked a great deal about making this trip together. Our extended family is not that large, but we are all very close and it was a group effort raising my three children. We had all traveled together as a group many times, and talked about the impending trip to Korea.
When the boys were 17 years old, our extended family was together for dinner when we began to discuss our upcoming trip. As everyone was talking about how exciting it was going to be, I finally looked over at my twin boy’s faces. They could not have looked any more frightened, overwhelmed, or sad. I am so glad I was tuning into how they were feeling. As usual, they were not saying anything until they got me alone — my boys are intensely private people.
When everyone had left except my twin boys and their sister, I sat down and said, “I am looking at your faces…can you tell me what you’re feeling?” Both of my boys expressed tremendous fear and apprehension at the thought of going back to Korea, and told me, in no uncertain terms, they had no interest in doing this. It made me very sad when they said, “Are you going to make us do this?” I guess I had not been tuning in to previous conversations about this topic, because I was surprised. I also think they always thought that it was going to be a long time before they were 18 and they would need to deal with this. As we talked about it I said, “Of course we don’t need to do this if you are not ready.” The trip is not intended to be for the rest of us, it is intended to be for you. Are you sure you have no desire to do this, and more importantly…, do you not have any curiosity about getting answers to so many unanswered questions?” They assured me they did not.
As I thought about it, it had been many years since either boy had mentioned their relinquishment or adoption in any way. Actually, Jaik has never discussed this, and even Brandon who was so vocal earlier in his life, had ceased to talk about this topic in any way. I don’t know why I thought that 18 might be some “magic” age for them, or that they would suddenly be very curious. I just always assumed they would. I know now, after having done a great deal of reading and research, that each child has his or her very individual reaction to this life-changing event. Even today at 23 years old, neither boy is interested. I check in occasionally, reminding them that the opportunity exists, should they ever want to make that journey.
As the boys left the room, my daughter Stacee sat with me a couple more minutes. She’s two years younger than the boys, so I asked her, “What do you think about this?” Stacee is the master of understatement. She said, “Mom, don’t you think it would’ve been a little bit awkward?” As usual, Stacee summarized the situation very nicely and managed to make me smile. She also gave me a great deal more to think about…and she’s right… It would’ve been a little bit awkward.
As an adoptive parent, have you made this journey with your child?
As an adoptee, what was your experience like?
Read Jane’s blog “You’re My Second Mama, Aren’t You?” here